17 June 2011

Jimmy Carter: "End the global war on drugs"

In a message to Congress in 1977, I said the country should decriminalize the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, with a full program of treatment for addicts.

I also cautioned against filling our prisons with young people who were no threat to society, and summarized by saying: "Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself."

These ideas were widely accepted at the time. But in the 1980s President Ronald Reagan and Congress began to shift from balanced drug policies, including the treatment and rehabilitation of addicts, toward futile efforts to control drug imports from foreign countries.

This approach entailed an enormous expenditure of resources and the dependence on police and military forces to reduce the foreign cultivation of marijuana, coca and opium poppy and the production of cocaine and heroin. One result has been a terrible escalation in drug-related violence, corruption and gross violations of human rights in a growing number of Latin American countries...

And the single greatest cause of prison population growth has been the war on drugs, with the number of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses increasing more than twelvefold since 1980.

Not only has this excessive punishment destroyed the lives of millions of young people and their families (disproportionately minorities), but it is wreaking havoc on state and local budgets...
More at the StarTribune.


  1. Prohibition was a failure. So's the "war" on drugs, but there's such a huge business, enforcement and bureaucratic infrastructure dependent on the perpetuation of the "war" that's it's hard to see a move to rational policies. This is a "war" that nobody expects or wants to win despite (or perhaps because of) the huge costs to this country.

  2. I've always believed the two groups most supportive of the war on drugs are the drug cartels and the DEA. Job security.

  3. Leave it to Mister Carter to propose such a sensible, humane and downright practical solution. It's too bad the media has spent the years since his presidency denouncing him a loonie-lefty dingbat - he has a lot of very good ideas that would make our world a much better place if they were only acted upon.

  4. There are over 36,000 Mexican people dead, mostly along the US border, because Mexico elected a right-wing President in 2007 who stated that he was going to stamp out the drug traffic. I said at the time that it would only cause a lot of deaths and not solve a damned thing.

    Like Prohibition, all such efforts does is make a few gangsters rich and does nothing to stop the flow.

    Drugs are a form of recreation, just as beer and other alcohol are. If we outlawed baseball or basketball, the same sort of thing would happen.

    All these efforts are religion- and "morality"-based, with one segment of the population deciding what the other segments are permitted to do. They wouldn't like it if going to church was declared illegal, but it is okay for them to dictate to others what they can do with their free time.

    In some perfect (or near perfect) society, such efforts will be seen as ludicrous. They simply do not work and ruin lives, as Carter said. Or, as we see in Mexico, end lives - often of those who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.


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